It cannot be ignored that this film bears at least a slight resemblance to the Hugh Grant movie “The Englishman who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain”, with numerous elements of this French-Canadian film matching those of its British counterpart. The setting is a small municipality, there is an appearance from educated and cultured outsiders, and you have the citizenry unifying in a goal for the betterment of their town. You can even include scenes of local officials acting like sports coaches and the outsiders being gently snookered by the apparently naïve gentry, but beyond these parallels lie plenty to appreciate about “Seducing Doctor Lewis”.
The setting is an almost microscopic island village in Northern Quebec named St. Marie-La-Mauderne, a name that is grander than its population of 118 people who call this stone in the ocean their home. The once thriving fishing community now finds itself gripped by rampant welfare due to the declining fish stocks, and the opening sequence illustrates how the inhabitants used to be proud of the hard working society. These days sees little more than the town forming desultory lines at the post office and bank twice a month to collect their government payments. Even the mayor recognizes the strife and ends up leaving to become a policeman on the mainland, but there is hope on the horizon for the residents. A corporation is considering building a factory on the island, bringing employment for everyone, but certain stipulations have to be met.
The most difficult thing required of the islanders is that they must have a full time resident doctor on their spit of land. With the mayor having fled the city’s prospects begin to be driven by one of the older residents, Germain, played wonderfully by Raymond Bouchard. Germain spearheads the effort to get a practitioner to come to their locale but he soon learns it is more difficult a task than mailing out hundreds of invitations. Through the efforts of their absentee mayor however a young plastic surgeon is coerced into spending a month on St. Marie. Given this window of opportunity Germain assumes the role of city elder and orchestrates the townsfolk into dedicating their energies towards convincing Dr. Lewis into wishing to stay.
The series of episodes is filled not with uproarious humor but wit and mirth, gentle touches that show the dedication of the citizens to get the one thing they need. Director Jean-Francois Pouliot does the right thing in choosing to slowly reveal the personality of the town and the individual denizens rather than delivering the humor with a mallet. Even the attempts by the people that are misguided end up being effective because they reveal the charm of the area, but just as the physician begins to see the merits of the island a new challenge is thrown at the feet of Germain. The corporate suits arrive to scout the location and let it be known that the factory would require a worker pool of two hundred people, and this leads to more humorous attempts at swaying people to their side.
The conclusion is basically foregone, but arriving there is a more than pleasant time. Before approaching the end of the film the seduction of the doctor is not that important because by that time the audience has already fallen under the spell.